Thank you, Lord, for bi-vocational ministers
November 15, 2005
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let me tell you about a special area that I am giving thanks to God for this season: Missouri’s bi-vocational ministers!
Note, I said “ministers.” We of course think of our “bi-vo” pastors, but did you ever think of all the other bi-vo ministers we have – men called and serving as worship leaders, youth pastors, church planters, education ministers, senior adult ministers, directors of missions and more? There is an army of bi-vocational ministers in Missouri Baptist life and I, for one, am very thankful for them! I have served bi-vocationally in two churches and now one of my sons is serving as a bi-vocational youth minister.
It seems to me that our state is being subdivided into four 40-acre home sites as small family farms are being sold. There is a growing population spreading out on every county road and creek. Out there among them are Missouri Baptist churches reaching them with the Gospel. Most of these churches are small and served by bi-vocational men. I am so grateful that there is a witness for Christ scattered throughout this population.
If you are in one of the churches being served by bi-vocational ministers, are you grateful for their service? Are you grateful for their message? Did you know that they are a gift from God to you (Eph. 4:11-12)? Are you grateful to the Lord for them?
Bi-vocational ministers have always been part of our heritage as Baptists. In the earliest days of our country, as our population spread across the territories, men would be farmers, ranchers, merchants from Monday through Saturday, and then on Sunday stand in the pulpits and preach God’s Word – not an easy task then, or now.
I know very few people who make a living wage for a family and only work a 40-hour week. Economics and work duties most often call people to work much more – bi-vocational ministers included. But on top of “making a bag of groceries” for his family, he is then on-call 24/7/365 as pastor. How many of you have ever had a crisis when your pastor refused to walk with you? This is another great reason that deacons and Sunday School teachers need to step up to the plate and be ministers alongside their pastor. He cannot do it alone. The work is too great.
When you call a pastor to your church, think with me for a moment about what is at stake. The message he delivers in the pulpit and with his life can mean the difference between marriages surviving or being destroyed. Your pastor is a community public relations person for your church. His life is a reflection of the life of your church. The evangelistic zeal of his life and work can make the difference, from the human perspective, in whether or not your children or grandchildren make professions of faith in Christ. His message can bore young people so badly that they leave Christianity on a shelf or his message can be used of God to inspire them to a ministry or missionary calling. The spiritual health and even prosperity of your family lies in the hands of the strength of the message that comes from your pastor. This is true of all pastors, but think of the additional burden carried by the bi-vocational minister who juggles a job, family and sermon-preparation time?
Let me encourage you with some items for action that I think will be a blessing to you and your pastor.
First, memorize Hebrews 13:7, 17. I believe it will give you a new love for your pastor and his work. If he serves with joy, you are the one who benefits. Second, don’t let him shoulder the ministry of the church alone. Encourage ALL the church to join in ministry. Third, don’t let people put unrealistic expectations on him. Can he be effective in the pulpit if he is the only person doing hospital and/or evangelistic visitation? Fourth, be sure your pastor has a retirement program into which regular contributions are made. Fifth, be sure that your pastor has study time to prepare for the pulpit. These are the most important moments of the week for your church.
Pastors are not “hired hands,” but men called by God to preach His Word. Preaching, by the way, is like writing a term paper with research, writing and then delivering it … three to five times a week! Did you like writing term papers in school?
I am very thankful for our bi-vocationally called pastors/ministers. These men are heroes. Most go unnoticed and under appreciated. Some of my heroes include bi-vo pastor E.D. Francis who serves the Inola Baptist Church family in Jackson, and Randy Conn, pastor, First Baptist Church, Morehouse. I can name many more. Can you?
I know many may not believe this, but most of the MBC’s ministry is aimed at serving our smaller churches. In particular, Jim Carter has now taken the reins as our new point-man for bi-vo pastor ministry. The Sunday School emphasis called “Five Star” is specifically targeting the 150-and-under-in-attendance churches – most of which are led by our bi-vo pastors. Another investment we are making in our ministers is a husband/wife retreat known as the Minister’s Juggling Act. We highly value our bi-vocationally called men and their families. Let’s give thanks to the Lord for them in this season of Thanksgiving.
“ Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. … Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13: 7,17